When you move there are so many things you have to get use to. For example: new neighbors, noises, slants in floors, plumbing issues, and my personal favorite (and I write that without the least bit of sarcasm of course) - old appliances!
Our new place has a very old, very small, electric stove. The burners do not really sit all that level and they stay super hot for a while before cooling down. They also do not seem to know the meaning of medium heat. It’s either high, or really low?!? But the part that is really playing with my mind and ego…the oven. When we first moved in I baked a cake. To my disappointment the result was a tad dry and overdone. To be fair I was testing a brand new recipe and I was not sure if it was my oven or the recipe itself. But as time has passed I am noticing it is the oven as it seems to run a bit hot and inconsistent.
I have been holding off on many of my baking desires and dreams because of this matter. But I had such a frenzy like ambition lately to bake and decorate a cake. To the extent that I ended up going down a rabbit hole of old pictures of cakes I decorated in the past. Elaborate ones with fondant, piping, sugar flowers. All the frills! I knew I needed to satisfy the urge and get a cake out of my system. I rationalized my crazed yearning with two notions: 1) I will bake a new recipe for the sake of research! And 2) If I bake this cake in my erratic oven, I will bake it on a lower temperature to ensure it will not over bake!
I looked over my cookbooks and right in front of me was the Violet Bakery book. As in “THE” Violet Bakery, in London; also the one that has been chosen to make the royal wedding cake. (In baking and pastry life this is big news!) I flipped through all the pages I have already marked with hopes of eventually getting around to baking one day when I landed on a recipe for Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake with Salted Caramel Icing. Yes, this needed to happen stat. But as I mixed the cake and baked it in my sad oven and strangely, it resulted in a cake that was a tad dry on the ends and sunken in the center. I was about to cry. But that was the least of my worries. The icing requires you to make a Salted Carmel Sauce first so you can add it to your icing. Have you made caramel of any kind before? You cook the sugar, very carefully, until it reaches a nice deep golden brown hue. I watched carefully as my sugar slowly grew in one spot to a lightly golden color. I turned to wash my hands and looked back to a cloud of grey smoke billowing from the pot. My sugar was burned. Again I was ready to cry as I franticly ran around my condo opening windows, fanning the smoke with my arms, and praying I did not set off the fire alarms. I rallied myself together and tried it again. This time I did not take my eyes off the sugar as it cooked. I quickly had a lovely salted caramel sauce in front of me. And I stopped cursing and threatening my stove.
By the time the icing was made with the salted caramel sauce, I filled and iced the cake with it. Well, that is after I trimmed the top edge so it was not as “sunken” and more even. I placed some fresh flowers around the cake that I had picked up at the market that morning. It was done. The desire to bake and decorate cake was achieved. After the unfortunate circumstances with my stove, I doubt I will be rushing to bake anything else soon. I will hold out until our kitchen remodel is done and I have a new one. But we did have pretty and delicious cake that we shared with friends. It was not by any means Royal, but I can dream.
Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake (makes one double layered 8 inch cake)
(Note: The following recipes have been slightly adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook; by Claire Ptak)
1 1/2 cup, plus 1 tbsp AP Flour
1 cup Cocoa Powder
1tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp Plain Yogurt
7 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 cup Hot Water
Heat the oven to 320 degrees. Butter two 8 inch pans and line with parchment paper.
Measure the dry ingredients, including the sugar into a bowl. Sift, or whisk them all together to be sure everything is evenly distributed.
In another bowl whisk your eggs, vanilla, yogurt, and vegetable oil. Be sure to have it mixed well. Once all is mixed together slowly add the hot water to this; whisking, to be sure it is evenly distributed.
Making a well in your dry ingredients, pour 1/2 your wet mixture in and mix with your whisk in a counter clockwise circle. (DO NOT switch up your mixing direction!!!! This will result in a lumpy batter!!!) Once batter is starting to come together, add the remainder of your wet and be sure to mix until you have a smooth texture.
Pour equal parts of the batter into your two pans and bake in the center of your oven for 40 - 50 minutes. The top should be springy to the touch and check it’s doneness with a skewer. If the skewer is clean your cake is done. Let cool on a rack before removing from pan. (I like to wrap the cake in plastic wrap and chill in your refrigerator overnight before decorating.) Cake kept well for a few days if needed before decorating.
Salted Caramel Icing (I personally like to double this recipe to have extra for decorating.)
1/4 cup Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
1 tbsp, plus 1 tsp Whole Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Kosher Salt
3 1/4 - 5 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
In the bowl of a standing mixer, place your butter and your caramel sauce and mix with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in your milk, extract, and salt and mix unit well incorporated. Add in 1 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar and mix for 3 minutes. Be sure to do this for the full time. gradually add the remainder of the powdered sugar until you have the consistency you wish.
TO ICE CAKE: working with room temperature icing and cold cakes, smooth out a bit of icing on top of both cakes. Stack the cakes and place a smooth but thin layer around the sides of the cake. I like to chill the cake for an our before topping off the cake and sides with the remainder of icing as you may wish.
Salted Caramel Sauce (yields two cups)
2/3 cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
4 tbsp Water
1 1/4 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Corn Syrup
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Fluer De Sel
4 1/2 tbsp Butter, unsalted
In a small pan place you cream and your extract and set aside. In a very clean, medium size pot place your sugar, water, and corn syrup. Mix the sugar together, neatly, and place over medium heat. Keeping an eye on your sugar. You are looking for the sugar to dissolve, and cook until it starts to caramelize. (This will take a while, but best to leave the boy untouched during this time.)
When the sugar is cooking gently heat the cream through with the vanilla. do not boil it, just warm it through and set it aside.
Once the sugar turns a deep honey color, it may take a swirl or two of the pan to ensure even coloring. remove from the heat and carefully add in your cream. The mixture will bubble up on you, just be careful. Once cream is added; add in your butter, flour de sea. and lemon juice. Keep stirring until butter is melted and caramel sauce is smooth. Remove from pan and let cool.
**NOTE: Salted Caramel Sauce is good for a week or two if refrigerated. I use it at room temp for fillings of cookies, or for Salted Caramel Icing. I heat it slightly and pour it over ice-cream too!